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In a continuation of Dave Jordano’s critically-acclaimed Detroit: Unbroken Down (powerHouse Books, 2015) which documented the lives of struggling residents, A Detroit Nocturne is an artist’s book not of people this time, but instead the places within which they live and work: structures, dwellings, and storefronts. Made at night, these photographs speak to the quiet resolve of Detroit’s neighborhoods and its stewards, independent shop proprietors and home owners who have survived the long and difficult path of living in a post-industrial city stripped of economic prosperity and opportunity.
In many rust-belt cities like Detroit, people’s lives often hang in the balance as neighborhoods support and provide for each other through job creation, ad hoc community involvement, moral and spiritual support, and a well-honed Do-It-Yourself attitude. With all the media attention about Detroit’s rebirth and revival, it is important to note that many neighborhoods throughout the city have managed to survive against the odds for years, relying on local merchants and businesses that operate on a cash only basis who have stuck it out through decades of economic decline.
Determination and a strong sense of self-preservation, Detroit’s citizens manage to survive by maintaining a healthy sense of connection without the fear of giving up. All of these places of business and residencies, whether large or small, are in many ways symbols representing the ongoing story that is Detroit, and a testament to the tenacity of those who are trying desperately to hold on to what is left of the social and economic fabric of the city. These photographs speak to that truth without casting an overly sentimental gaze.
These nocturnal images offer a chance to view the locations in an unfamiliar light and offer a moment of quiet and calm reflection.
Dave Jordano was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948. He received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in 1974. In 1977 he established a successful commercial photography studio in Chicago, shooting major print campaigns for national advertising agencies. Jordano is the author of Detroit: Unbroken Down (powerHouse Books, 2015) and has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is included in the permanent collection of several private, corporate, and museum institutions, most notably the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Detroit Historical Museum; The Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston; the Harris Bank Collection; and the Federal Reserve Bank.
Karen Irvine is Curator and Associate Director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. She has organized over forty five exhibitions of contemporary photography, at the MoCP and other venues including the Hyde Park Art Center; Rockford Art Museum; Lishui International Photography Festival, China; Daegu Photography Biennale, South Korea, and the New York Photo Festival. Irvine has contributed texts to many publications including FOAM, Art on Paper and Contemporary magazines and monographs including Ann Lislegaard: Eyes Wide Open (The Royal Museum of Photography, Copenhagen); Paula McCartney: Non-flights of Fancy (Princeton Architectural Press); Barbara Probst: Exposures (Steidl); Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson (MACK), and Stefan Heyne Speak to Me (Hatje Cantz), amongst others. She has a BA in French and International Relations from Tufts University, Medford, MA, an MFA in photography from FAMU, Prague, Czech Republic, and an MA in art history from the University of Illinois at Chicago.